September 29, 2009

Media Advisory -- Task Force Meeting

The Southern Illinois University School of Law on Wednesday, Sept. 30, will host a task force that looks into the re-entry process for discharged military personnel who return from duty in an active theater.

Dan Grant, director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and chair of the Illinois Servicemember Task Force, will be among approximately 15 task force members and presenters who will deal with issues related to higher education. The meeting is set from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the law school courtroom.

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome. Sergio Estrada, the assistant director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs; John Costello, bureau chief, military and veterans’ rights bureau with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office; and state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, a member of the state’s veterans’ affairs committee, also are expected to attend.

The hearing is open to the public, and comments that deal specifically with veterans and higher education will be accepted.

The task force hearing is also an opportunity for the law school to highlight the Veterans’ Legal Assistance Program. The program, which assists veterans in their disability claims appeals, recently received a second year of funding from the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

John F. Lynn, the law school’s assistant dean for administration, expects about 15 second- and third-year law school students involved with the program to also attend. An afternoon tour of the VLAP offices in Kaplan Hall is also planned.

The program’s focus is providing pro bono legal services to veterans who cannot afford or do not have access to legal representation in appealing service-connected disability claims. Since its inception in August 2008, the law school program accepted about 70 cases and has about 20 active cases.